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26 Ways to Get Your Board to Raise Money

In order for your grassroots river group to survive, it is essential that your board fulfill its responsibility to "give and get" for your organization. This means first and foremost that every board member must make a financial contribution appropriate to his or her means and ability. It is critical to do this, since in order to solicit others effectively, board members must have also made a gift of their own. Moreover, foundations often look closely at board giving as a measure of a board's commitment and effectiveness.

In addition to giving, all board members should help with the "getting" in some way. Fundraising cannot be delegated to one board member or even a board committee. Every board member can and should help (and will feel good about contributing to the financial well-being of an organization they are committed to).

You, as volunteer or paid staff, have an important role to play in this process. For the most part, board members are unaccustomed to fundraising. If told to "go out and raise money," they will have little idea of what to do. You must develop a relationship with each board member and discover what his or her talents, skills, and special resources are. Then, you must work individually with each board member to determine one or two specific things s/he can do to help raise money.

Success Stories

Here are some tried and true ways in which staffs of grassroots river groups have involved their board members in raising money for their organizations.

1. Ask board members who are trustees of foundations, or know trustees of foundations, to work with you to develop and present a proposal to the foundation or trustee for a suitable project. The board member should set up an appointment with the trustee and accompany you on the visit.

2. Ask outfitter board members to sponsor a benefit river trip for your organization. The outfitter provides food, boats and guides and donates the proceeds to your organization. You recruit the passengers. Often, if one outfitter does a trip, other outfitters in the area will follow suit.

3. Draft board members who are good organizers to put together fundraising events, such as concerts, festivals, or film benefits. A board member of the Pine Cabin Run in West Virginia organizes a concert every year in Washington, DC, complete with a silent auction. The event nets about $3,000. A board member of the American Whitewater Affiliation puts together an annual festival on the Gauley River complete with music, food, drink, a silent auction, booth rentals and t-shirt sales, which nets that organization about $25,000.

4. Talk outfitter board members into being the first on the block to do a "pass-through" contribution for your river group. The outfitter raises the trip price by $1-$5 and indicates in the brochure which river group the money will go to. Again, once one outfitter has taken the plunge, others will follow.

(For more information on how "pass-through" programs work, call or write for River Network's publication, "Outfitter and Guest Fund Raising: The Pass-Through Contribution Model.")

5. Ask an affluent (or particularly generous) board member to propose a board match. For example, if an organization needs to raise $9,000 quickly, ask a board member to challenge the rest of the board by saying, "I'll donate $3,000 if the rest of you will match it 2-to-1." This is a particularly good strategy in times of urgent need.

6. Ask board members who own a restaurant, a catering service, or a pub to put on a dinner or wine-tasting at their establishment and donate all, or a large percentage of the proceeds. Such events can be repeated year after year, and usually do better each time they are held.

7. Persuade board members who are gourmet cooks to do colorful meals as benefits. An American Rivers board member rallied her friends and organized a wonderful dinner on the Potomac for several years in a row to which guests were transported in canoes and served fabulous food on a beautiful rock overlooking the river.

8. Ask board members who are writers, or have other special skills such as cooking, kayaking, publishing, etc. to do "How To" workshops and charge admission. A friend of Amigos Bravos in New Mexico put on a "How to Write" workshop and raised $10,000 for the organization. This works especially well if the person is well-known.

9. In some cases, you can ask board members who are fundraisers or very good writers to prepare and send out proposals to foundations. This works best when the board member is very involved with the program and knows it intimately. A case in point is the West Virginia Rivers Coalition, where a board member currently does most of the foundation fundraising.

10. Provide board members with membership materials, and ask them to recruit two new members a month from among their friends, family, neighbors, business associates, etc. This one-on-one member recruiting is excellent practice for soliciting major gifts.

11. Ask board members who are celebrities to appear at events, come on river trips, etc., guaranteeing a good turnout and sometimes justifying a higher admission fee.

12. Ask board members with well-to-do family or friends to ask them, in person or by mail, to make significant gifts to the organization. Usually, this works best if the board member can say, "There is this great group whose board I serve on that is doing wonderful work (give pertinent details). I just contributed $1,000. Would you consider giving $1,000, too?" Again, you must supply the board member with appropriate materials and go over the pitch.

13. Approach board members who own manufacturing companies or stores to donate items to your organization to be used in fundraising. For example, a canoe manufacturer can donate a canoe for a raffle or auction, a clothing manufacturer can donate hats for use as membership premiums, etc.

14. Ask board members with nice homes to host "houseparties." This works best if the board member takes on most of the work involved, including preparing the food, securing entertainment, if any, and addressing and mailing the invitations.

15. Ask board members to help you solicit new members, sell raffle tickets, or ask members to renew as part of a telephone campaign. Such campaigns are often more successful if the caller starts off by saying that s/he is a volunteer.

16. Ask artist board members to donate a piece of their work to your auction or raffle. If the item is a photograph or drawing, perhaps it can be reproduced and used as a gift to recognize major gifts.

17. You can ask board members to donate such items as typewriters, filing cabinets, computers, and office furniture to the organization. You must let board members know what the organization's needs are, and obviously, board members should not saddle the organization with badly outdated or nonfunctional equipment.

18. Ask board members who belong to a church, service club, or canoe or fishing club to solicit the church or club for a donation for your river group. Many churches and clubs have small pools of money available which often are overlooked by fundraisers. Sometimes, simply writing a letter will free up money and often such donations are renewable if requested yearly. If your board member is successful with her own club, she may be willing to research and solicit other clubs in the area.

19. If reminded, board members will often put your river group in their will, make your group the beneficiary of their insurance policy, or consider other planned giving options. Once they have learned about the benefits of planned giving, they will also become advocates for this form of giving with their family and friends. (This is obviously a long-term fundraising strategy, and should not be used as an excuse for taking board members on hazardous river trips!)

Because this is such a delicate and complex subject, it is probably best to bring in an outside expert to talk to your board about planned giving options.

20. Urge board members who work for banks, law firms, or other large companies to ask their firms to buy a table or at least several tickets to your event and make these available as a fringe benefit for their employees.

21. Ask board members with good corporate contacts to convince corporations to make donations to your organization.

Often, the first step is for the board member to set up a luncheon with the CEO of the corporation and the executive director of your river organization to "make the pitch". At these kinds of meetings, board members not only open the door for the executive director, but also are in a position to say complimentary things about your organization which a staff member cannot.

22. If a board member is active in a local canoe or fishing club, ask him to get the club to do a member recruitment mailing to the club list, including drafting the letter and paying the postage for the mailing.

Sometimes, an outfitter board member may be willing to do this, too, provided she does not have to hand over her mailing list to a third party. If the club won't do a mailing, ask the board member to at least arrange for the onetime use of the mailing list.

23. Persuade an affluent board member to loan the organization a fairly large amount of money for a year, interest free. Your organization invests the money, uses the interest generated, and returns the principal to the board member at year's end. In some cases, the board member may agree to leave the money on loan with the organization for several years.

24. Ask one board member to be responsible for asking other board members to give once or twice a year. This is usually the board chair, although the fundraising chair can do it too. The solicitor can mail out a note to other board members, call them, do the request in person, or use a combination of all three.

25. Encourage board members to attend (as paying participants) the organization's fundraising events, river trips, etc., and to invite their colleagues, neighbors and friends to do likewise. If your organization holds a raffle or auction, ask board members to sell tickets, donate and bid on auction items, and participate in every way possible.

26. If you have a board member with expertise in media relations or marketing, get them involved in planning events, membership campaigns, and other fundraising activities. Good marketing is often the key to doing well on a fundraising effort.

If you have found other unique ways to harness the talents of a board member in fundraising activities, please let us know!

26 Ways to Get Your Board to Raise Money was originally compiled by Pat Munoz, River Network (inspired by Kim Klein's article, 29 Ways for Board Members to Raise $500)  



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